Virtual call centres a reality

New developments in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology mean that Canadian marketers can now take advantage of a full range of third-party products and features when they want to connect customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization. 'Call centres...

New developments in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology mean that Canadian marketers can now take advantage of a full range of third-party products and features when they want to connect customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization.

‘Call centres have previously been constrained by the walls they operate in,’ says Bob French, managing director of Toronto-based Rockwell Electronic Commerce. ‘Now, we’ve removed these walls, meaning the concept of a virtual call centre has become a reality.’

Rockwell recently introduced Transcend ACD, billed as the first ACD to run on the Windows NT operating system. According to French, this open system connects customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization, allowing the caller to perform a transaction or communicate with the business through phone keystrokes, via an operator, through the Internet or via a combination.

‘We view this as the evolution of the call centre from the telephony world to the IP (Internet Protocol) world,’ says French. ‘The early ’80s saw information technology explode with proprietary systems and the resulting rationalization during the early ’90s saw it move quickly to open standards systems.

‘Now, an ACD like Transcend can be integrated with existing local area networks (LANs) and telephony equipment, meaning Canadian telemarketers can develop call centre capabilities without having to purchase new hardware, software or proprietary phone sets.’

French says that Canadian call centres – traditionally smaller than their U.S. counterparts – are ideal for the new wave of ACD technology.

‘If you look at the Canadian marketplace, you’ll find that something like 92% of the call centres fall below 100 seats,’ he says, citing research conducted by San Jose, Calif.-based consultant Dataquest.

‘Transcend fits in well for this market, because it can be licensed for 20, 40, 60 or 80 users, and that will soon expand to 160. It’s a product and technology that has traditionally been for the high-end, large-scale call centre, brought down to a smaller size.’

And that’s important, French adds, since customer expectations have changed so dramatically.

‘In the last few years, we’ve seen a growing trend towards round-the-clock customer service as consumers and lifestyles become busier and their expectations increase,’ he says. ‘Big business has been able to deliver better service and greatly benefit from the various applications associated with ACD technology, such as skills-based routing, intelligent queuing, call management features and reporting.

‘But it has left smaller organizations behind the eight ball, unable to provide that service and with customers expecting it.’

Transcend can be configured to run with or without an existing switch, which means that a PC coupled with any phone can become a fully functional agent position – at home, at a remote location, or in the office.

Benefits include increased productivity and profitability as the technology enables the organization to reduce the overall cost per customer contact. A report by ACA Research of Boston found that the cost of a sale generated in the traditional way – sales rep visits client at his or office – exceeds $300 per customer contact when all of the operating costs are taken into account. Using telephony and an operator, the cost of a sale can be reduced to between four dollars and eight dollars per customer contact, and to as low as 24-50 cents per contact via the Internet.

‘For direct marketers running a call centre, this solution’s modules are especially important,’ says French. ‘You can have in-bound functionality, previewing and predictive dialing. For organizations doing outbound campaigns, predictive dialing can generate calls as the system connects successful calls to an available agent. If it rings busy or there is no answer, it’s ignored by the system. This can double or triple a call centre’s productivity.’

Predictive dialing – where a system dials up customers automatically, pulls up the appropriate customer file and links the operator to the customer once it detects a human being on the other end – has normally been available only to the large call centre, owing to its cost. French says call centres would typically need upwards of 100 agents before it made sense to spend the money traditionally associated with predictive dialing.

‘But now it can be provided for as few as 20 agents,’ he adds.

Transcend costs about $100,000 for a 20-agent licence. Rockwell has distribution relationships with several telcos in the United States and is considering implementing the same model in Canada.

Also in this report:

- Voice, data converge in e-contact centres: New applications unify voice, e-mail and Web customer contact processes p.D12

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group